For some, following health protocols is easier said than done

Published September 24, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

And some of us still haven’t learned our lesson.

By now, the trifecta of health protocols – wearing a face mask, social distancing, and regular hand washing – should be “ingrained” in our muscle memory. All research, whether done in the confines of a laboratory or using the expanse of an entire population, refer to basic health protocols together with vaccines as mankind’s most effective tools to fight the virus and its variants.

But it seems like not everyone is convinced. Or are they just plain careless?

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana early this week revealed 1.9 million violations of public health protocols recorded so far by the government since the protocols were announced 19 months ago. Violators have been apprehended or cited for not wearing or improper use of face masks and face shields, and non-observance of social distancing. Considering the unrelenting scourge of the virus, with some experts predicting cases to breach 30,000 soon, the enormity of the number just baffles the mind and makes us wonder if these violators have some sort of common sense.

Adding salt to the wound, Lorenzana also revealed that there were 122,580 individuals who were flagged at checkpoints and prevented from crossing boundaries during strict lockdown in different parts of the country. Since only authorized persons outside of residence (APOR) were allowed to cross the borders of adjacent cities and provinces during some quarantine qualifications, these violators continue to test the checkpoints and find loopholes just to move from one place to another, without any regard if they become “delivery agents” of the virus.

Lorenzana used the word “saddening” to describe these situations and even pointed out that the virus is not capable of moving on its own without human intervention. “The virus carriers are the ones who spread the disease because of their continuous movement and interaction with others,” Lorenzana said.  “We appeal to the public to maintain discipline and concern for others so our situation won’t get worse.”

Giving credit where it is due, the government was not remiss in reminding Filipinos to strictly follow the health protocols. In the early days of the pandemic, the Department of Health was able to release guidelines, while the IATF sought its nationwide implementation. The DOH was also able to use the different media platforms to drum up its “BIDA Solusyon” campaign. The campaign revolves on the fact that “following the behavioral changes can cut down the virus transmission by up to 96 percent.”

So why is the number of health protocol violators still that glaring?

Even though the guidelines are in place, the government seems “overwhelmed” when it comes to implementation. The reality is that no one could be available 24/7 just to remind those who are not wearing face masks or to check on public spaces to reprimand those who are having gatherings or meetings.

Following health protocols must be a conscious effort of an individual. No one can force it on someone else. As among the recommendations, health experts suggest talking compassionately with someone to let them know that each of us has a role to play to stop the virus. If this is still not effective, government intervention may come in the form of a hefty fine, a penalty requiring community service, or – in the absence of a better solution – a fixed time to ponder inside a small room full of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers.